Illusion to Light—-Elaine Bonow
Illusion to Light
It was already two in the afternoon. We had been on the road since six this morning, and what a glorious sunrise it was, clear skies with a pale violet hue giving way to rose, the green hills rising and falling as we gathered speed. We planned on a ten-hour drive to Bismarck, North Dakota from Missoula, Montana. So far, the trip had gone smoothly. It was like old times when the world seemed so normal it was almost boring.
The scenery outside the window became a blur of prairies and valleys revealing long expanses of room to breathe. Cars passed so fast with everyone driving at least eighty miles an hour, so fast that I didn’t have enough time to identify the make of the vehicle, not that I could tell the differences between all the oversized pickup trucks with full gun racks pressed hard against the cabs back windows.
He had set the cruise control to eighty slowing only through outpost towns paying close attention to the radar mounted on the dashboard when it alerted us to a state patrol lurking around an innocent corner. Only then did we slow down to the posted speed.
We had stopped once so far to top up the gas and again along the way at a remote rest stop to use the bathroom and get a free hot coffee stocked by a local charity group. Our food was provided by the basket at my feet, which contained sandwiches, and snacks of nuts and chips and zip lock bags of fruit cut up ready to eat. We had a thermos full of hot coffee and the six-pack of pop stayed cool in a thermal case on the back seat of the car. Or should I say his car, his antique 1957 Thunderbird sedan completely “cherried” out to use fifties vernacular. It was white and turquoise two-tone with matching interior. He had fixed it up and now it was in perfect showroom condition.
The car is why we are on the road today. He had decided to sell the car to a collector in a small town outside Bismarck. I was still in shock actually. He’d always had cars. Cars were his hobby and now he was selling the last one in the garage.
“Rose, I’m through with this business.” He said to me one afternoon. I didn’t know exactly what he meant by that. He wasn’t one for talking much. That much I knew after all we’d been together since fifth grade and married right after our last year of high school. Nothing he could do could surprise me, or so I thought.
The farm we lived on had a bunch of out buildings where he stored his collection of cars, trucks, and tractors. I think at one time he even had an old army tank complete with a fully working machine gun mounted on the hood.
I stopped going anywhere after I got sick. It was too hard for me to navigate the terrain when I could walk and now it was pretty near impossible in the wheelchair. The more I couldn’t navigate the world the more he worked on his cars selling them one by one until finally just a few days ago he told me we were going on a road trip.
Fred glanced over at Rose. She was asleep now. He sighed with relief thinking back of how much had changed since they gotten older.
“So it’s come to this.” He thought to himself. “Her meds will keep her asleep for a while now. I guess I can have a smoke.” He tapped a cigarette from the soft pack he had stashed in his left sock. He used the onboard cigarette lighter and took a deep drag and settled back comfortably in the T-Bird’s plush white leather bench seat.
We’d been so happy until she got sick. Well not happy but satisfied, content. Rose was everything to me. Like me she cherished the simple life we lived. She never complained. We led a proud righteous life, me and my girl Rosie. The farm was successful but not overly so. We had the garden and a grand garden it was. We could live off the land. We had pigs and hogs, some cows for milk and cheese, sheep for wool, and goats and chickens. Rosie canned everything, nothing was wasted or unused. Her jams and jellies won gold ribbons every year at the State fair until this damn sickness took over.
The doctor said it was MS and there wasn’t anything he could do. Her case was especially bad. He said there’s no cure. Neither of us was very religious but at first, we prayed fervently to a god who I knew, would be too busy to pay much attention to this ordinary farming woman. To me, god hadn’t stopped any body from taking a loaded gun and killing innocent children or any of the other atrocities that were being perpetrated on countless blameless men, women and children in every single place on the globe since the beginning of time.
They both backed out of any covenant with god realizing that life was just life with warts and pestilence, baby lambs and rainbows, and too much greed all existing together without rhyme nor reason and they took it as best as they could. Fred started selling his hobby about five years ago paying for all of her expensive medicines and experimental treatments that their insurance wouldn’t cover.
Rose got worse. When she couldn’t walk he took care of her carefully, never complaining. It wasn’t easy isolated like they were. The years lengthened while Rose declined slowly and steadily. He remembered the exact last time she said her last words.
“I feel like something is changing again.”
“What is it Rosie?”
“I just can’t seem to talk. It feels like my throat is closing up.”
And that was it. It was years ago when she said those last words. Fred had never been a man of many words. Rose always interpreted the world for him. She ran defense in his football game of life. His very life had hit the mute button until one late night out in a field, he had a revelation about the whole meaning of the universe that was spread before him in an almost lurid display of the stars above him, of his and Rosie’s place in the puzzle.
He decided to take action and this on this trip he felt good that his actions will mean something. Fred looked at his watch. “Right on time.” He said aloud to himself. He glanced again at the sleeping Rose so peaceful next to him. Her silver hair was tied back in a braid. She had never changed her hair since she was the child he had first fallen in love with. He loved her just as much as he ever had. He hoped that she realizes his devotion to her. But then he realizes that she must love him as much as he loves her.
She was wrapped in one of her woolen capes she had woven from her favorite pet angora goat. It held her softly like a cocoon. Fred approached the city as the lights were coming on. He kept the big bird steady and moved into the left lane. He knew this city well and was soon traveling on a road he had stumbled on years before.
He traveled on into the blackness of night. Checking his rear view mirror he saw a man sitting comfortably in the back seat. The man looked just like Fred He was wearing a black suit and shirt. His black hair was highly polished. He was a younger more sophisticated Fred. He was smoking a thin cigar and had a white carnation in the buttonhole of his lapel.
Fred gave his doppelganger a nod and pressed the gas pedal to the floor. Rosie was having a beautiful dream that she was dancing in a flowered printed dress in old-fashioned voile. She had on black dancing shoes and her hair was dark brown and free like when she was a girl of fifteen. It flowed around her as she spun in a circle of light swirling in a tornado of flowers. She was lifted off her feet into an ever-widening light.
Fred kept his eyes glued to his double as the car flew through the darkness. Faster and faster he went until the speedometer reached one hundred and forty, and for a moment that T-bird flew like a fat fifties Dreamliner, attained zero gravity, and disintegrated into nothingness.